Cell Phone Carriers are Holding Back the Repeater Industry!

After purchasing and installing our repeaters, a lot of customers ask why repeaters aren’t more commonplace. Almost everyone has experienced cell phone problems, whether it’s a dropped call while you’re driving, or poor reception when you call home from the supermarket to check whether you need to buy milk. Dropped calls and poor reception mean dissatisfied customers and lost revenue, so why aren’t network providers scrambling to install repeaters on every street corner?

To explain why, I’ll have to give a little background on how cell phone networks are licensed to use their frequencies. The FCC (the Federal Communications Commission) is in charge of designating and selling licenses for the frequency spectrum that cell phones use. The FCC has two main frequency ranges that it has licensed networks to use, one is around 850MHz (the “Cellular band”) and another is around 1900MHz (the “PCS band”). Each one of these “bands” is then subdivided into smaller frequency “blocks” and sold to networks. The 800MHz band is usually shared between two networks (usually Cingular and Verizon), and the 1900MHz band is usually shared between six networks (usually T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, Cingular and a couple of regional carriers).

Have a look at the diagram below to see what the FCC licensing scheme looks like.

Simplified FCC Licensing Diagram

As part of their licensing rules for these cellular frequencies, the FCC requires that networks only sell and use equipment that works on their specific frequency “blocks”. However for technical reasons it’s very difficult and expensive to create repeaters that only cover these smaller frequency blocks. You’ll notice that all the repeaters we sell on our site cover an entire frequency band, and never just a frequency block. If networks were to start installing repeaters wherever they could, they’d be flouting FCC rules and would probably get slammed with a big fine. Moreover, Sprint would hardly want to install a 1900MHz repeater that would also improve the reception for all the other networks that share the band and with which it competes.

Since networks can’t install these repeaters or even make a little cash selling them to their customers, they don’t promote them at all. By contrast, in Asian countries like South Korea repeaters are installed in every apartment complex, shopping mall, and even on street corners. Unless the FCC makes an exception for repeaters, it’ll be a while before we see similar market penetration here in the States. With no network backing, the repeater market in the US is developing as people learn of the products through word-of-mouth and as manufacturers like Wi-Ex, Wilson, TelecomTek and Spotwave gradually promote their products.


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